Is Swiss ski­ing re­ally just a big swizz?

Jamie Gri­er­son gets a taste of the high life. But is it worth spend­ing more to try some­thing new in Switzer­land than, say, France or the USA?

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LEAN­ING my head out of the train win­dow, take in the fresh moun­tain air as we glide along the edge of Lake Zurich. The beau­ti­ful re­flec­tion of the au­tumn sun bounces off the icy wa­ter and is framed exquisitely by the snow-topped moun­tains in the dis­tance.

I’m trav­el­ling from Zurich air­port and, after a cou­ple of changes, I’m on the Rhaetian rail­way to Davos in the largest Swiss can­ton, Graubun­den.

As we snake up the moun­tain through conif­er­ous trees, climb­ing ever higher, the snow cov­er­ing the ground be­comes thicker and thicker. It’s the per­fect start to a ski hol­i­day. In the past, I’ve been crammed into a minibus with nine or 10 com­pan­ions and thrown back and forth round hair­pin bends, while lis­ten­ing to an ob­nox­ious sea­son­naire tell me how ‘sick’ the pow­der has been this year.

haven’t been ski­ing in Switzer­land be­fore, so I’m keen to see how it com­pares with France and the USA. With its world fa­mous de­signer watches, unattain­able bank ac­counts and über-strong cur­rency, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Switzer­land is much fancier.

From the flat-screen TVs in the bub­ble lifts, to the suc­cu­lent Wiener-Schnitzel in the moun­tain­side restau­rants, the qual­ity of the Swiss ski ex­pe­ri­ence is much more lux­u­ri­ous. But of course, like all such things, it comes at a cost.

My in­tro­duc­tion to the Swiss high life is at the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal in Davos, which opened last De­cem­ber. The ho­tel is shaped like a gi­ant egg and rests on the moun­tain­side above the rather Soviet bloc-look­ing town.

IIIt is now syn­ony­mous with the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, at which global lead­ers come to­gether and talk about how they can save the world – and ski­ing. It can be blamed for a num­ber of pho­tos of UK Chan­cel­lor George Os­borne in full ski garb, in­clud­ing a rather trendy neck buff.

The ho­tel is cer­tainly com­fort­able, the restau­rant menu is first class and the bar, de­signed by HR Giger of the Alien fran­chise, is su­per stylish. But have to ad­mit that it’s all a bit much for a man of my tastes.

feel par­tic­u­larly self-con­scious when slice into my tomato-based meal and squirt scald­ing hot juice across the ta­ble and down the shirt of the far more so­phis­ti­cated per­son sit­ting op­po­site me. For a town used to host­ing the Bri­tish royal fam­ily, this must feel like a visit from the Royles.

And I am fre­quently re­minded of the in­ter­est in roy­alty.

“Kiss-and-tell doesn’t hap­pen in Davos,” I’m told, mo­ments after be­ing shown the Ch­esa Grischuna ho­tel where mem­bers of the Bri­tish royal fam­ily stay.

Much more af­ford­able and down-toearth is the Ho­tel Wynegg, a fully re­stored chalet-style build­ing and rather more mod­est. It oozes Alpine charm and is run by an en­thu­si­as­tic trio of

III20-some­things, who all grew up in the vil­lage.

While af­ford­able and sim­ple, there is noth­ing rough around the edges about this place; it is stylish, the restau­rant serves warm­ing food cooked on the premises, and the rooms com­bine clean, mod­ern touches with tra­di­tional fea­tures. But what about the ski­ing? Our guide, An­dre Kind­schi, has been all over the world, but his love for his home coun­try is in­fec­tious. How­ever, de­spite the large num­ber of runs, the ski­ing at Davos Klosters lacks a sense of va­ri­ety and can be­come quite repet­i­tive.

An hour away on the bus is Len­z­er­heide, a re­sort re­cently linked with another called Arosa. The new lift con­nect­ing the two has ef­fec­tively dou­bled ac­cess to ski­ing in the re­sort.

For some­one who loves to get the miles in, cov­er­ing large swathes of moun­tain ter­ri­tory, this is much more like it. The ski­ing is mixed and suit­able for all skill lev­els.

We stay in Priva Lodge, a gi­ant chalet-style ho­tel with all the lux­ury trim­mings. rel­a­tively new de­vel­op­ment, it feels a lit­tle iso­lated,

Abut I’m sure this will be cor­rected in time, as new re­sorts, ho­tels and chalets spring up around it.

don’t tend to waste time on any­thing but ski­ing or snow­board­ing – it seems odd to spend so much money and not use ev­ery minute avail­able – but I’m in­tro­duced to piste sledg­ing and snow­shoe­ing in Graubun­den and I’m pleas­antly sur­prised.

I’m a bit of a thrill junkie and sledg­ing is fan­tas­tic. If you have no fear and keep your feet up, you can re­ally pick up speed. Throw in a few mates – and a few beers – and you can have your­self an in­cred­i­bly fun race.

ISnow­shoe­ing is not a thrill ride, but is fas­ci­nat­ing nonethe­less.

Ac­cess­ing ar­eas of the moun­tain that you can’t on skis or a snow­board brings great plea­sure, and ac­com­pa­nied by our Swiss guide, who is ca­pa­ble of dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween the snow tracks of a bunny and a squir­rel, it’s all rather ed­u­ca­tional.

Although many of the stereo­types about Switzer­land be­ing a rich coun­try are true, it also of­fers some very novel ski ex­pe­ri­ences.

Even if it’s a lit­tle bit on the posh side, for a five-star ex­pe­ri­ence of ski­ing, it’s un­beat­able.

Jamie Gri­er­son was ready to scorn sledg­ing but the high-speed runs in the Davos/Klosters re­gion more than sat­is­fied the thrill fac­tor

Stun­ning scenery on the rail trip to Davos

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